The opening stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under came down to the expected sprint finish, with Human Powered Health’s Daria Pikulik taking the victory. The finishing straight ran alongside the beach at Snapper Point in Aldinga, with strong winds buffeting the rides from the right-hand side of the road. This first major race of the season is always an interesting one as we have no indicators of rider form or who is up for this early-season stage race. A race report of the stage can be found here.
Women’s Tour Down Under 2023 Stage 1 sprint
Jayco-AlUla led the early phase of the sprint with Georgie Howe and Alex Manly leading them into the final kilometre. Here Ruby Roseman-Gannon took over with Georgia Baker in the wheel. In the capture above, we see the situation at the 300 metres to go mark. Georgia Baker has just decided to come round to the left of Roseman-Gannon, getting a small wind break in the process. Maggie Coles-Lyster of Zaaf Cycling is perfectly on her wheel. She’s been sitting there for all of the previous 1km.
On the right-hand side of the road, we’ve got Loes Adegeest of FDJ-SUEZ leading out Clara Copponi. Amanda Spratt is just off Adegeest’s wheel to the right and Ally Wollaston in white behind her. Daria Pikulik is in an interesting spot to the left of Copponi. With the wind coming from the right, she’s got a good draft even though the Pole isn’t directly following another rider. She’s got a nice clear lane in front of her.
100 metres later and the lead-out riders are out of the picture. Spratt had chosen to go round to the right of Adegeest and as the Dutch rider fell back, that left Spratt fully exposed to the wind. Ally Wollaston is committed at this point to following the Aussie. At this point, Baker and Copponi are in a head-to-head drag race with Maggie Coles-Lyster gamefully hanging on to Baker’s wheel still. Dara Pikulik has the best position at this point. With the wind from the right, she’s shielded by Clara Copponi to some extent and is keeping that lane to the front open as well to not get blocked in.
At 100 metres, the lead trio are pretty much in a line as Pikulik begins to move up. At this point, Baker has been sprinting for over 200 metres and hitting the limit. Copponi taking the brunt of the crosswind now is also beginning to fade. Coles-Lyster is keeping pace but the Spratt/Wollaston combination has switched from the right-hand side of the road to the middle and left in an effort to find some break from the wind.
The final 50 metres decides the win with Pikulik clearly the strongest rider on the day. All of the closest riders to her maxed out before this point whereas Pikulik played things perfectly to avoid hitting the wind too early on what has been a monster length of a sprint. Her positioning in the sprint has been spot-on after losing her lead-out Kaia Schmid early on. You can just make out the downhill part of the finishing straight in the background. It feels like tactically this played a role in teams being desperate to reach the crest at the front of the pack, expecting the downhill to the finish to increase the speed massively. The last 75 metres sees the road slightly rise again and it’s this which seems to finish off the sprints of Copponi and Baker.
Also of note is the difference in the cadence of Maggie Coles-Lyster to those around her. It feels obvious to say it’s a track rider on the road thing, however, Georgia Baker is also a track rider and has a much lower cadence. The possible difference is Coles-Lyster does events like the omnium whereas Baker tends to do the team pursuit. Strava says Maggie Coles-Lyster averaged 113rpm in this phase, with a max of 125rpm.